Six years ago, I would have been ecstatic to get a double digit number for the amount of days that I got to ski in the mountains. Being from Edmonton, weekend-warrior trips were often planned the week of. Concerns of the snow expected to fall were backseat to our need to get get back into the mountains again. Come Saturday, rain, shine, blizzard, or whatnot, we'd be on the road to the mountains at 5:00 AM and driving home at 5:00 PM. Out of the countless number of trips made like this, there was never a regret. We never came home unhappy or unfulfilled. Being in the mountains was almost a second nature and an escape from the every day life of the toil and broil in Edmonton.
Looking back now, the concept of waking up that early to go skiing is almost foreign to me, being within a stones throw of a mountain. Making my way up there on an almost daily basis, I can easily top my former-self’s crowning achievements in a single pay period on Mount Washington. The numbers all blur together and have since lost the same meaning that they once did, having to rely on the ticket checkers to inform what my actual count is at now.
I have only graced Mount Washington, and Vancouver Island by association, for three seasons. Once as a paying customer, once as a volunteer, and once as a paid staff member. In that time, I've become acquainted with the mountain and the surrounding area quite intimately, either through work, fun, or curiosity. And so, it got me thinking; since I have known the area for less than the time it takes someone to complete an under-graduate degree, is this feeling going to wear off after some time? How do the people who have been skiing here for twenty years do it? Do the numbers of visits up to the mountain start to just meld together? Does the taste for something different, a ski wanderlust, take hold and push them else where?
I grew up at Rabbit Hill, a small ski "hill" into a river valley near Edmonton. I sure did get sick and tired of that (nearly) 75 meters of vertical pretty fast when I was younger and park skiing was never really something that I got into. A five hour escape to the mountains was my only saviour at the time. When I look back on my time at Mount Washington, I've hit the same line over and over again on that kind of a powder day. With no hesitation, it's a straight line to my go-to powder stash. On hard and fast days, I've got go-to groomer runs that I just have to hit.
With an entire mountain to choose from and a more intimate knowledge of the area than a visitor, what brings me to these same quick five turns? To this one drop into untouched terrain? Almost like falling into comfortable routine, I have been hard-wired in this short time to spaces on the mountain that I have come to know and love, and know, that if I do decide to come back here, I'm going to enjoy those quick two, three, four (…or whatever) turns. A vestige of familiarity and a plethora of welcoming smiles and high fives from people you may have only ever shared one run or a million together. I still sit the night before a storm, giddily watching the web cams and looking forward to the prospects that the next day will bring.
And you know what, when I look at it, I've somehow gotten to the point in my life where one of the first things I do in the morning before work is to step into my bindings. Any job prior to this one really can't compare and you know what, I'm reminded of being back in Edmonton and being so excited to get back to the mountains again. And then it hits me, a realization that I've known deep down inside me for as long as I can remember; any day up on the mountain is better than a day down below the clouds. And when you call that mountain home, it's all that much better.